The Willow is an adaptable plant which grows wild over most of the Sarvonian continent. Its slender leaves born on flexible shoots give it the familiar ‘weeping’ silhouette, and its many uses make it a much-loved tree.
Image description. A Grothar temple with its typical columns surrounding a willow in its center, representing archways for the God's Auratic Winds. Picture by Seeker.
Appearance. Common to all willows are the rough, grooved bark of the main trunk, the long flexible branches that sprout from a central knot born at the top of the trunk, and the slim bladeshaped leaves with their peculiar light, glossy, green colouration.
The Weeping Willow is the tallest of the three common types, standing four to ten peds depending on its age. They can grow to enormous size, their branches covering and shading a large area (two to five pens, a pen being a 5-ped square area is not uncommon), if in favourably moist ground. A lovely shape is achieved by the limber branches drooping from the top and hanging in green curtains all around the trunk of the Weeping Willow, and it is a favorite shade tree in moist regions.
Wolf Willow is a smaller version, which tolerate less moisture and is often found in colder climate zones. Its supple golden branches are used in place of rope - tightening as they dry - to bind sheaves, replace broken leather traces, fasten tent frames together, and so on.
Marsh Willow is a stunted, scrubby variety which has almost no trunk at all, but sends out many long whippy shoots from just above the ground. It grows best in very dank conditions, as the name implies, and spreads voraciously. Some Marsh Willows of an advanced age form incredible, intimidating tangles of branches which have looped and contorted, hardening as they age, to form shapes that affright travellers in the dusk.
Territory. The Willow
grows anywhere there is a bit of water for it to suck up, and may be found
almost everywhere in the Sarvonian continent
except the dryest areas to the south. It is particularly flourishing east of the
Rimmerins Ring area; in fact almost the entire Almatrar Forest below Hog is
composed of willow, with some bog oak and ash mixed in. Wolf Willow, as noted
above, prefers the more northern areas, and may be found from the Heath of
Jernais upwards. Marsh Willow is found in bogs, fens, marshes, and coastal
wetlands throughout Sarvonia.
Usages. The branches are often used as withes or substitute bindings for fences, stockades, and other rustic buildings. They are quickly cut, grow back within a few months, and shrink as they dry, making the binding even more secure. The wood is soft and easily carved, but usually not worth the bother, as it splits quickly along the grain, and is not overly rot-resistant. Children enjoy making Willow whistles from short sections of the branch with its older bark, and elders with nothing better to do will whittle on a Willow stick, claiming it eases their hands better than other woods. This may be so, as the bark does indeed have powerful medical benefits.
It is well-known that a tea brewed from Willow bark can relieve the pain of headaches and muscular tensions, as well as bring down fevers. It is not recommended for everyday or common use, as an overdose of improperly prepared willowbark can injure or even cause death. The average peasant, farmer, merchant, or noble will purchase his willow tablets from his nearest apothecary, or goblin chemist, rather than brew Willow on his own. Soldiers, mercenaries, guards, and other warriors for hire often carry Willow tablets in their kit, along with dried fruit, field rations, and other survival items.
Image description. Willow tablets that relieve headaches and fevers. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.
The cure works on most races with varying degrees of efficaciousness:
dwarves seem to require much higher dosages
than humans, and
elves have a high degree of tolerance for the chemical in its natural form,
merely chewing on a willow branch for a short time.
gnomes, and the other smaller races must be cautious not to take more than a
half-grain at a time of the prepared substance, however. Willow tablets are
available from most gnome chemists in predosed
amounts labeled by race.
Myth/Lore. The Willow is dedicated to Grothar; its swaying branches and light leaves which move with every gust of wind make it a natural symbol of the Weather God. When harvesting Willow the devout begin with a quick prayer, or at least the mutter of Grothar’s name before the axes and sickles bite into the wood.
Human peasants from the Almatrar to the Sharadon forests believe with varying degrees of credulity in a folk figure known as Granther, or Grandfather, Willow. He is said to dwell in a great ancient Marsh Willow in the depths of the swamps (usually the location varies depending on who is telling the story) and emerges to speak to lone travellers. His moods are as changable as the weather, and he can capriciously bestow gifts or lead people astray in the bogs, so it is always wise to be courteous to old men one meets at dusk! For a typical Granther Willow story see "The Babetales: Of Swamps and Sorrows".
Very old and twisted Willows are all possibly the residence of Granther Willow, or of other capricious spirits, so it is not unknown for superstitious people to make simple offerings at those trees: a splash of milk, a crust of bread thrust into a knothole, a bright ribbon or scrap of cloth tied round a branch. These last should not be confused with the prayer ribbons dedicated to Grothar, which are usually long and white, and located in public places such as crossroads.
In other areas it is felt that the spirit of the Willow is a female, a nurturing, dreamy sort, who may or may not reward gifts by answering petitions. For a poem in this tradition, ascribed to the nature poet Avalotus, see "Old Willow".
Information provided by Bard Judith